The internet is good for a lot of things, but one thing that it’s not good at is…how do I phrase this? Follow through. Or going past the meme. Many social justice phrases were thought up for legit reasons and were very meaningful. But then they get repeated ad nauseam until they lose all meaning. That’s not surprising. Things that get repeated over and over again are going to lose nuance.
In this case, I want to talk about ‘check your privilege’. The reason this came into being was because people would give out solutions to problems without thinking how feasible said solution was for peeople in less-than-ideal situation. They assumed that other people had the resources they have, so that’s where the advice is coming from.
It’s a good thing for that reason. You do need to be cognizant that people are not in the same position that you are. A very broad example is that say you have a friend whose car breaks down. They are told that it needs a new battery (yes, I have car batteries on my mind), and they vent to you about how difficult this is for them monetarily. If you then say something like, “Oh, just ask your parents for the money” or “Just put it on your credit cards”, then you are, indeed, not checking their privilege.
It’s good to be aware that other people are not like you. They may not have the benefits you have, and something that is easy for you is not necssarily easy for them.
Here’s the thing, though. Over time, it’s just been a way to shut people down. And a signifier of who is in and who is out of a group. Also, I have never seen the phrase as complete in and of itself because it doesn’t indicate what you should do once you check your privilege.
I’ll give you an example of this as well. There was a question at Ask A Manager from a woman with large boobs who did not wear a bra to work. Her boobs were covered up, but lets face it. When you have huge honkers (as I do), there is only so much you can do to cover them up. She went about protesting in a not-great way, but I was absolutely on her side in fighting the requirement that she had to wear one.
The sheer amount of negativity people had for anyone who suggested that she keep on not wearing one or job hunt really discouraged me. This was just a year ago, and I would have thought people would have chilled the fuck out about bras in the year of our endemic, 2023. But no. So many women (yes, women) were scornful about not wearing a bra or said it was just the cost of being a woman in the professional working world.
Why? If the boobs are covered and no nipple is shown, then why do people care? And the women who were the most vehement about this were the ones who said it wasn’t a hill to die on. If that’s the case, then why so excerised in the other direction? Someone mentioned it was privileged to quit over this. That really annoyed me, but I did not answer them. Other people did, saying that part of being privileged is using that privilege to help those who cannot make that stance.
That’s the whole point of checking one’s privilege! In addition, yes, and? If someone is in the position to do this, should they not just because it’s privileged for them to do so? In other words, should we all go for the lowest common denominator? If that’s the case, then everyone in America is in deep trouble. We are privileged in so many ways just by being Americans. Starting with English being spoken in almost every country.
I made a comment about using privilege for good, but also about diversity and inclusitivy. I am AFAB, but currently consider myself agender. I also have really ginormous boobs. I read as female, and I’m fine with that. But. I would not be fine with being ordered to wear a bra. And, yes, I would quit over it because bras hurt. All bras. Wired, no wire, and any size. I have not tried a bralette, but I don’t see the point. I used to wear exercise bras when I did Taiji, and that would be fine for an hour, but not for a whole day. Basically, anything that compresses any part of my body for hours is no bueno.
I knew that most women wear bras. I have no issues with this. But the sheer indignation so many of them had for those of us who chose not to wear them floored me. It shouldn’t have because it’s the same energy I encountered when I was in my mid-twenties and had decided not to have children, but, naively, I thought it would be better thirty years later. It’s not.
It’s even more discouraging because AAM is a progressive website. It leans left and most of the women would consider themselves feminists. And yet, the very idea of not wearing a bra in the office makes them have the vapors and clutch their pearls.
I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be rude, but i’m going to be. It’s puritanical and so 1800 to be aghast at a woman not wearing a bra, I can’t wrap my mind around it. But the same crowd were also aghast at women who chose not to wear makeup, so I guess I shouldn’t be so gobsmacked.
I am, though. It’s also darkly amusing to me that the very people who say it’s not a big deal to wear one are making such a big deal about it. If it’s not a big deal to wear one (to them) , then why is it a big deal not to wear one? Someone in the post made that argument in response to the person who said it was a silly hill to die on. “If your employer insisted you not wear a bra because someone was offended by you wearing a bra, would you shrug and take off your bra?” The OP of that thread did not answer.
That’s the thing that gets me every time. When you flip it on them, they have no response. But that’s how being a part of the norm works. You think you’re the normal one and those of us who do something different are the freaks. Well, I am a freak, but not for that. Anyone who questions the status quo will get pushback. I know that. But that much? It just depresses me.
And that doesn’t even touch on gender issues. Alison cited the fact that courts have allowed different dress codes for different genders as long as it’s not too onerous on the woman (let’s face it. It’s usually the woman) to follow the dress code. Now that there are more than two genders and they are not binary categories, how is this going to be challenged?
Finally, those of us who hav ethe privilege in any given situation should use that privilege for good when others cannot stand up in a similar situation. Otherwise, what is the point of having privilege?